Fokker 50 operator tests iPad as electronic flight bag

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Swedish regional carrier Amapola is testing a new electronic flight-bag cockpit installation, based on the portable Apple iPad, for its Fokker 50 turbo­prop fleet.

Initial installation of the touchscreen iPad technology took place on the first aircraft in November, and the carrier has secured Swedish civil aviation authority clearance for the Class 2B fit.

Amapola needs to fly for a period with paper back-up but, if no operational problems emerge, will be able to operate without any paper charts on board.

Saab worked with the airline to develop and certify the installation, which includes a cockpit mount, and the system uses a database provided by Navtech that contains 31,000 charts and is regularly updated.

"The advantage with the iPad is that the machine-man interface is very intuitive and easy to use while avoiding the need for extra controls and pointing devices," says Saab systems engineer Mark Cox, adding that three or four aircraft in the fleet have been equipped, out of 13 to be fitted.

Certification processes for the handheld tablet were "straightforward", he adds, no different from those for other Class 2B fits.

The iPad has attracted interest from airlines as an alternative to traditional hard-wired in-flight entertainment, but the Amapola project illustrates the device's potential within flight operations.

"The modification is designed to be able to be installed using modification kits produced by Saab and is carried out during normal aircraft maintenance downtime," says Cox.

Other airlines and operators have shown interest in the iPad for electronic flight bag applications, he adds, and the company is "exploring a number of concepts", Boeing and Bombardier platforms among them.

Navtech chief Mike Hulley says: "We see the iPad as a unique opportunity to further lighten the load on pilots and airlines."